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How to Cut Down on Night Waking

Saying goodbye to work life can mean a change in your sleep schedule. Learn how to sleep well during this new stage of life.

The joys of retirement are plentiful, from having the chance to spend time with family to being able to frequently travel. Another perk to add to the list: More sleep. On average, people sleep approximately 20 minutes longer at night after retirement. Those who skimped on sleep the most during their working years see the biggest gains, increasing their nightly sessions by around 45 minutes compared to pre-retirement. What’s more, retired people are less likely to experience sleep difficulties related to job-related stress.

Along with the positive news, however, there are some challenges to getting quality sleep after retirement. Sticking with a bedtime schedule can be hard, especially when sleeping in every morning is a new possibility. And many retirees like to travel, causing a shift in sleep hours due to changes in time zones. These variables can cause sleep cycles to get out of whack, leading to troubles falling asleep during nighttime hours and staying awake during the daytime. To keep your sleep routine on track, follow these smart tips.

Relax Before Bed
As we age, it can take longer and longer to fall asleep. To help make it easier to nod off, create a calming nighttime routine. Turn off the TV and electronic devices (the blue light they emit stimulates your brain and keeps you awake), and instead read a book, take a bath, or listen to relaxing music. Following the same routine nightly will send a cue to your body and brain that it is time to switch into sleep mode.

Stick to the Same Wake-up Time
Whether you are at home or traveling, try waking at the same time every morning. Not only will oversleeping make it difficult to fall asleep at night, but too much sleep is linked with higher risks for dementia. Aim for a consistent schedule, even on the weekends. If you have changed time zones due to travel, keep your morning wake-up consistent and go to bed a little earlier for a few days until the jet lag wears off.

Avoid Napping
Now that you don’t have to make that afternoon meeting, it might seem like a prime opportunity to catch a little shut-eye. But actually, napping during the day can throw your body clock off and keep you awake at night. Your best bet is to avoid naps altogether, but if you’re feeling particularly exhausted and need to rest, keep it to 20 minutes max.

Take a Walk
If you’re feeling a little drowsy during the day, go outdoors for a brisk walk or hit the gym. Moderate exercise will help wake you up and increase the odds of better sleep at night.

It might seem ironic that after so many years of sticking to a regular work schedule, you now need to follow a consistent sleep schedule. But by remaining consistent with your bedtimes and wake-up times, you are actually maximizing the benefits of sleep’s restorative powers and will feel energized for your day ahead.